How much does college cost? I’ve been tracking our college costs for our daughter, Lindsey, down to the last dollar through four years of college and – I’m going to be honest – this final update was the trickiest to do.
You can see the first three years of updates here: year 1, year 2, year 3. In those posts the costs are neatly broken down into categories of tuition, fees, room board, etc. And that’s because – except for her spending money which she was responsible for – I paid for everything directly from our checking account and could track it carefully (obsessively?)
But last year was a year of transition between college and adulthood for Lindsey and we went about paying for our expenses a little differently.
First, our tuition and fees costs for this year were zero. A big, fat zero. In fact, KU put a few hundred dollars back into our checking account and it was all thanks to Lindsey’s hard work at earning scholarships.
But despite having no tuition expenses, overall our expenses went up for the year.
What’s up with that?
Primarily it was because Lindsey’s housing situation changed from living in the sorority (and before that a dorm) to living in a rented house with several other girls. Each girl had her own bedroom and had to pay for rent, utilities, groceries, etc. No more one flat rate for room and board.
We opted to give Lindsey one check from us a month to pay these expenses to get her used to budgeting a set amount and also having the experience of writing out checks for rent and utilities and get them paid on time.
And because Tom and I weren’t paying for tuition or fees, we elected to make her check each month a generous one ($1200 – $1300/month) and we encouraged her to save what she didn’t spend. (Lindsey was also working a paid internship and a part-time campus job while going to school so she really did save some of her money each month.)
And that’s how I find myself in the position of not having our expenses for the year fall neatly into the same categories as before or even knowing exactly what they were. Honestly, for those reasons I thought about not doing the update at all, but I really wanted to finish out the four years for consistency’s sake.
So here’s the bottom line of what’s here:
- Tuition and fees are $0 because of scholarships (yay Lindsey!)
- Room and board covers what we sent her to pay for rent, utilities, & food and some of that went into savings
- The rest should be pretty self-explanatory
Senior Year Expenses
Tuition/Fees/Room & Board/Books: $13,484
- Tuition = $0*
- Fees = $0*
- Room, Board & Spending Money = $13,075
- Renter’s Insurance = $153
- Books = $212
- Cap & gown purchase $44
- Dues & House Maintenance: $1782
- Moms/Dads Weekends, Senior Dinner = $772.21
Expenses for All Four Years
With senior year in the books, here’s what my husband and I paid out for college, broken down by year:
- Freshman year: $17,435
- Sophomore year: $13,171
- Junior year: $13,936
- Study/intern abroad summer: $11,025
- Senior year: $16,038
Does that seem like a big number to you? It does to me! I’m kind of amazed and proud that as a family we were able to pull this off in cash with no debt.
I’ve written about this on the blog a lot, but the shorthand version is this:
- We started with an affordable option (in-state public university).
- Scholarships were applied.
- We gave my side gigs (bookkeeping and blogging) the job of helping to pay for college.
- Lindsey worked both during summers and the school year.
- What we were left with was a manageable enough figure to pay for from our regular cash-flow.
So there it is…one college education in the books.
And we’ve just made the first two monthly payments toward the second one. Here we go again…